Controlled-Environment Lighting Laboratory

The Controlled-Environment Lighting Laboratory (CELL) is a vertical farming research facility at Michigan State University focused on the indoor production of high-value specialty crops.  Dr. Erik Runkle in Horticulture developed CELL for:

  1. Research on controlled-environment production of specialty food crops (such as leafy greens and herbs) and ornamentals (such as seedlings and cuttings);
  2. Demonstration of indoor growing systems to inform growers and capture the interest of students and the public; and
  3. Teaching applications for undergraduate students enrolled in relevant production courses in Horticulture at MSU.

CELL consists of two independently controlled and refrigerated growth rooms, each with 12 deep-flow hydroponic shelves.  Sole-source lighting in CELL utilizes customized, state-of-the-art light-emitting diodes (LEDs) developed in collaboration with OSRAM and OSRAM Opto Semiconductors.  Lighting software enables digital light control of individual shelves, allowing for temporal alternations of light quality and intensity.  Research on dynamic lighting aims to produce crops with desired attributes through light-mediated regulation of extension growth and leaf size, leaf thickness (texture) and color, as well as taste and nutritional value of edibles.  Here's a glimpse of our first test crop in CELL (spring, 2017), followed by a video showing more recent research (winter, 2017) on the indoor production of leafy greens. Videos by Qingwu Meng, Ph.D. student.

We recently initiated a new research project entitled "Development of Sole-Source Lighting Guidelines for the Production of Floriculture Transplants", partly supported by the American Floral Endowment.  This project will provide a better understanding of how sole-source lighting primarily from red, blue, far-red LEDs affect growth and development on a broad range of floriculture crops, especially annual bedding plants.

CELL is located on the first floor of the Plant and Soil Sciences Building (room A154).  Students and visitors can look inside CELL through its large windows from the corridor, which can potentially spark their curiosity about the emerging vertical farming industry.  Read more about CELL and "Growing Food in the Future" in the Fall/Winter 2017 issue of Futures magazine.  We're also pleased to participate in the MSU Science Festival in April, 2018.

Learn more about CELL and our partnership with OSRAM in this video:


We gratefully thank the following for funding and support of CELL and related plant science research projects:

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We also thank the following people for supporting the development of CELL:

  • Doug Buhler (MSU AgBioResearch)
  • Vance Baird, Steve Brooks, Nate DuRussel, and Qingwu Meng (MSU Horticulture)
  • Jim Kells and Steve Pueppke (MSU Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences)
  • Charles Brunault, David Hamby, Rodrigo Pereyra, Alan Sarkisian, and Dorian Spero (OSRAM)
  • Chris Eichelberger and Drake Stallions (OSRAM Opto Semiconductors)
  • Caleb Harper (MIT Media Lab)

For research-based information on horticultural lighting, consider these resources:


Disclaimer: Reference to commercial products or trade names does not imply endorsement by MSU or bias against those not mentioned.


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